Friday, 30 September 2011

The best song to start worship ever?

Over the years I have heard talks about the typical or ideal flow of worship, usually starting with declaration (about the truths of God and why we worship) moving to celebration (our joyous response to these wonderful truths), moving onto intimacy (deeply felt songs about our closeness to God) and hopefully ending with commission (singing our missional response to go out and be salt and light).

Of course there is no perfect flow or formula for worship but often we either consciously or subconsciously develop a pattern because we are generally creatures of habit. A while back I posted on the lack of joy in our worship songs and I have to say recently in my church there has been a lot more joy in our worship times and I am happy about that (if you'll pardon the pun). However, I was reflecting on these elements of declaration, celebration, intimacy and commission and couldn't help thinking there is a missing ingredient: Preparation.

Now ideally we would all individually prepare ourselves before coming together to worship and all be raring to go, but if you are struggling with life's circumstances that is not always easy. And what about those going through serious illness, marriage break ups, redundancy, bereavement and a multitude of other situations that are incredibly tough and have no easy answers, how do they get themselves ready to worship?

Well I wonder could we help by making the start of our worship time accessible, real and inclusive? Rather than going straight to declare God's greatness why not really acknowledge where different people are at and invite us all, despite our circumstances to fix our eyes and soul on Jesus, the one who can meet us where we are. There are many ways we can do this and I would like to share two with you.

The first is a video (An Honest Welcome). If I was to use this I would take the words, make them my own, read them out as a personal welcome and call to worship.

The second is a song "Come on my soul" by Rend Collective Experiment. I think this is the best song to start a time of worship. It helps us individually and collectively sing to the deep of our souls telling them to open up and sing to the Lord. Every time I listen to this song I get to the end of it and I am in a place of worship.

So have a watch of these videos and let me know what you think, what's your ideas for songs or other methods that could or have helped prepare us to worship Jesus the king?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Communicating Vision

Before we look at communication let me ask the question, have you got a vision? Is it a destination that you can actually reach or have you actually got a mission statement which is your organisations reason for existence?

Assuming you have a vision there is an important process to go through before you start to communicate it. This process could potentially save you both time and increase the effectiveness of your communication immeasureably - find out if your vision makes sense!

How do you ensure your vision make sense?
Doesn't it already make sense? Remember it makes complete sense to you, you being the person or the team that has carried, crafted and lived it for days, weeks maybe even years.
But do you really want people who hear this vision for the first time to have to ask questions like "when you say X what do you mean?"

Hand your vision statement over to some people who have not been part of the process, these people should meet the following criteria - be good with words, include men and women, cover a range of ages and people types i.e. not just similar people to the leader(s). Give over the documentation you have produced so far and ask them simply "does this make sense, do you have any questions?" then sit back and look to take on board this important feedback.

Concise or long winded?
Your vision can be just two or three words (famously Canon photocopiers was "kill Xerox") or it could cover many specific areas with several goals. However, your vision needs to be memorable and if it is a set of goals using an overarching title or vehicle for your vision will help people to remember it. A good example of a wide ranging vision being encompassed in a memorable way is Kings Arms Church, Bedford who have used the numbers 1 to 5 to connect their goals to their 5 year vision.

How do you communicate?
Simple answer - by every means possible until everyone knows the vision or you have achieved it! In communicating vision there are two key aspects to consider:
1. What are the questions you need to answer?
2. Consider the methods you need to use to really communicate with people

The questions - there are three main questions people will have - Why, How, What

Why have you\we gone for this vision? If the vision is a natural extension of the past or normal for your type of organisation this why question may just cover issues around the scope of the vision. Questions that ask why so high\low\long\short\small\big etc.
If it is a major departure from where you are at now it will be necessary to demonstrate where the faith is in this new vision.

How will we get there? Again the smaller and simpler the vision the less of these questions will come.
Going for a grand vision way beyond where you are now requires more confidence in the steps to get there and if these are outlined then people can gain confidence and accept the vision more readily.

What does it mean for us\me? In the back of everybodies mind whenever a rousing speech or vision is set out there is a little voice that says, "So What?", or in other words, "What does this mean for me?".
This often will be thought of in terms of remuneration of some sought but also in terms of how will I be involved in this. The vision will paint a picture of a wonderful future but what part will I play in helping make this happen? Do I have a part? How will I be involved? All sorts of questions like this will be asked. Maybe even some cynical ones like "We've heard this all before.".

The Methods
Nothing beats "hearing from the horse's mouth", so the leader of the organisation needs to stand up and clearly layout the vision for the organisation answering the Why, How and What questions.

Beyond this initial communication you need to account for people who aren't there to hear, people who process in different ways, and people who need to hear something several times to fully understand and take on board the vision (this last group is somewhere between 99-100% of the population!).

Having the vision and what it means for us written down in various forms will enable people to pick it up and process it at their own pace.

Repeating the vision is another key method to use. However, remember you can always have too much of a good thing! When the vision is launched it is appropriate to repeat the core of the vision at every opportunity.

Encouraging people to discuss and feedback to the leadership can be helpful. Doing this inevitably will bring up ideas and views that are significantly different to the leadership and the vision. Ignoring these views and people is the wrong thing to do. There will always be actions and strategies that we wouldn't do or follow but, we will still follow leaders if we feel our opinions are heard and respected. Ignoring the views and ideas of people can lead to the situation where people feel that they might as well just ignore your vision. They will certainly not put effort into achieving it and possibly will just leave.

In summary:
  • Make sure your vision makes sense
  • Make it memorable
  • Consider the questions people have
  • Use all the available methods and encourage discussion and interaction

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Six Things - Stuart Crane

Stuart currently resides in the fabulous city of Birmingham along with his beautiful wife Melanie and his amazing son Levi. During the day Stuart splits his time between leading Real Life Church and being a primary school teacher.  In his few spare moments he be found either reading a good book, attending a Karate class or watching American Football, the greatest game on God's earth!

One thing that's always worth getting out of bed for
My wife's breakfast muffins and pancakes.

One thing about yourself that often obstructs you
Procrastination, I am currently studying for a PhD in it.

One thing I've learned the hard way
When you have made a mistake just admit it....quickly.

One thing that gets under my skin
We live by the absolutely massive Sutton Park (around 2200 acres!) and it is a fab place to take walk, share a picnics, ride a bike, fly a kite etc and one that really bugs me about is dog owners who do not clear up their dog's poop!

One thing I'd love to change
Time zones!  So I can watch the American Football at a decent hour.

One thing I hope for
To cross the finish line at the end of my life and hear the words "Well done good and faithful servant".

Six Things is a series of micro-interviews with interesting and creative people
in which they’re asked to respond to a standard set of six prompts.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Something unexpected

At the end of August my family & I went to Greenbelt. Greenbelt is a Christian arts festival where music, art, performance, thought, discussion and creativity meet amongst 20,000 people from all avenues of Christian traditions.

Beforehand we downloaded the festival app so my wife & I were able to browse through each day and mark all the seminars, gigs and childrens events we thought might be interesting. I marked about six or seven talks and two bands I wanted to hear Rend Collective and Idlewild.

As the weekend progressed I spent most of my time with my two girls taking them to different activities and talks which meant my wife to go to the talks she wanted. I was having an enjoyable and relaxing time, not worrying about missing out on anything. Then one evening with my eldest daughter looking a bit bored we reviewed the bands on in the Underground venue. I spied an act called Listener who performed something called Talk Music. We decided to go along and I can safely say things will never be the same again.

Listener mixes poetry, folk, punk and heavy metal sometimes into a wall of sound, sometimes playfully moving through the genres in one song. They have a performance style that is both agressive and a little in your face (esp. in a small venue) and at the same time incredibly heartfelt in a very self disclosing manner. The lead singer Dan Smith writes wonderful poetic lyrics full of surreal images that speak to you at a soul level, they are at times mystical yet full of love, grace, mercy and hope.

My favourite song of the show and the one I play over and over is the title track from their album Wooden Heart. The brilliance of the opening line "We’re all born to broken people on their most honest day of living" and the call for us in our churches to "wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief" are just two highlights (you can watch and listen to it below).

So I came away from Greenbelt with a new favourite band and more than that, music that speaks to me where I am right now and to something of the truth of who we are as people in this world.

All the family loved the event and we are sure to be going back again. I wonder what events or experiences you have had this year that have ministered to you and will shape your life ahead? Let me know.

PS: I even had a Gong Shower but that most definitely is another story!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Getting your Vision – What’s on the front of your bus?

Leadership is about achieving a vision. So you need a vision, how do you get one?

The leader and leaders of any organisation should have a vision. If they haven’t or the current vision has been achieved or needs to be changed then a new vision needs to be set.

As I said in my previous post looking at the definition of mission, vision, values and goals – vision should answer the question “Where are we going?”

As you seek to answer this question you need to consider the following:

1. How far ahead are we looking?

2. How long will you spend getting the vision

3. What resources will you put into getting the vision (eg retreats)

4. What will the vision look like, its nature?
Numerical – to be a church of X by Year Y
Qualitative – to be a people and place where the love of God is found
Reputational – to be known as the people and place where God can be found
Each of these types should still be measureable

In looking at these questions and the general question of where you want to get to it is worth bringing into this process as many people who can help shape it and add real value to it.

Occasionally, there will a very clear and specific direction that the main leader feels is the answer and the organisation will follow after that. However, in these cases there should still be a seeking after wisdom from the whole body of leadership and not the potentially dangerous reliance on one person’s personal vision.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Understanding the difference between Vision, Mission, Values & Goals

On my previous leadership post I said if leadership is about anything then it's about achieving a vision. But what do we mean by vision, and what about mission, values and goals?

I think it may be helpful to define what is normally meant by these terms.

Mission (you can also use the word Purpose)
Dictionary definition – a person’s vocation, his mission in life
Mission answers the question “Why do we exist?”

Dictionary definition – something seen in the imagination or in a dream
Should answer the question “Where are we going?”
A vision statement must have a destination otherwise it is just a purpose\mission statement.

The way we do things here – culture, ethos – our distinctiveness
What we believe in shapes our values, our values shape our behaviour.

These should annual plans that help you move towards your vision in bite-sized chunks
They should be achieveable but challenging.
You could have annual, 2-3 year or 5-10 year goals, it all depends on the long term nature of your vision.

Friday, 9 September 2011


There is a saying, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", well I feel very flattered indeed.

I, like many people, have a twitter account @fingerpies and during August somebody created a fake Steven Hunter account @NotStevenHunter.

I have my suspicions of who is behind this account but I have decided that I am going to live in the happy place of not really knowing and enjoying his or her posts. Some of the funniest post have been:

On Nic Lines seminar at Newday
Heard great things about the  seminar, though not sure that barista is actually an Ephesians 4 ministry 

On my trip to Paris
Loving France. Impenetrable accents, terrible driving, a true appreciation of facial hair... I should have been born here!

On my weekend at Greenbelt
Looking forward to Greenbelt so I can unleash my inner hippie. Cleaned my sandals today in preparation. 

One big difference between myself and my alter ego is that I don't like Malibu (which he regularly imbibes). However, the idea of regularly having a sneaky drink does sound very tempting!

So long live @NotStevenHunter, may my life continue to provide you with a rich resource to comment on.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The pressure and pain of surrender

"What can I say, what can I do? But offer this heart O God completely to you".
This is a line from a popular worship song The Stand by Joel Houston. It speaks of the desire of a person who, recognising all that God has done for them all they want to do is to give everything to God.

It's a sentiment that is said in many places in the bible and also in my favourite hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, with the wonderful line - "love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all".

But how do can I give my heart and my life completely to God? If it's easy then surely every Christian would have done it and we would all be saints!

The picture of an orange and a juicer comes to mind. The juice of the orange is all of me, my heart or life if you will. The first squeeze to get a load of the orange juice out is relatively easy. And with each squeeze a little bit more juice comes out but it gets harder and harder each time. The pressure required needs to increase and the pain to ensure the orange juice comes out is more intense.

I know this metaphor isn't perfect, none are, and we rightly ask for more of God but do we realise we could be just as easily be asking for more pressure and pain. A pain which is good for us - "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" Romans 5:3, as the gym instructor would say to us "if it isn't hurting it isn't working".

Whatever pain you are walking through, chosen or not, may you see the hope that awaits at the end of it.